State Supreme Court rejects challenge to liquor privatization initiative
May 31, 2012 · 12:23 PM
The Washington State Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit today claiming that Initiative 1183, which privatized state liquor sales, violated the state constitution's requirement that proposed laws only address a single subject.
The court also rejected a claim that the description of the new law on voters' ballots was misleading.
"We appreciate the court recognized that this initiative satisfies our state constitution's requirements and agrees that voters understood what they were voting for," said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna in a press release. "Our office argued, and the court ruled, that all the provisions of Initiative 1183 were related to its single subject, liquor, and that the subject was appropriately disclosed in the ballot title."
McKenna added that I-1183 ends the state's monopoly on the sale of liquor and the law contained several details to ensure that both public safety and state revenues from liquor sales are carefully protected in the process.
The initiative includes a requirement that a portion of new revenue coming from liquor license fees be used to increase funding for local public safety programs, including police and emergency services. Plaintiffs claimed "fees" should be called "taxes" on the November 2011 ballot — and that such language might have changed the outcome of the vote. The State Supreme Court rejected this claim, communicating skepticism that anyone was deceived. In today's decision, the court wrote, "We will not void a law duly enacted by voters" based on the meaning of one word.
The Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention and a man who leased property to the Liquor Control Board for a store in Longview were among those who filed the challenge to I-1183. Eight local government officials filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of upholding the initiative. The unions representing store employees and the truckers who hauled liquor to the state stores filed an amicus brief opposing the law. The case was argued at the State Supreme Court by Senior Assistant Attorney General Mary Tennyson, who represents the state Liquor Control Board. Assistant Attorney General Bruce Turcott was co-counsel on the brief.
I-1183 passed with nearly 59 percent of the vote. Many state liquor stores have already been closed and private sellers, including grocery and big-box stores, may begin selling liquor on Friday.